The heart of the art
Art across the Curriculum is the latest title in the excellent Art and Design for Learning series edited by Margaret Morgan. In this new book, the authors Dawn and Fred Sedgwick, who also wrote an earlier title in the series - Drawing to Learn - show how art can be at the very core of the primary curriculum as a key element in children's learning in all subject areas.
Primary schools have long used drawing and painting to illustrate stories or topic work, but this subsidiary and essentially decorative role is one which the authors reject. They propose instead a more dynamic function for art.
The skills of observing and recording in exploring the natural world, for example, are vital both in art and science. As a result, the processes of looking and drawing, which are the very essence of art, can also be used as a way into science.
In the section on art and mathematics, attention is not only drawn to the shared language of the two subjects - symmetry, balance, shape and tessellation, but also to the strong links which exist between mathematical thinking and the work of artists such as Mondrian and Escher.
In English, much exciting work in speaking, listening and writing can begin by exploring pictures and in social education, work in art can help children understand and come to terms with their feelings and emotions.
In common with other books in the series, Art across the Curriculum reminds us of the fundamental truths which underpin all real learning. In a national curriculum which largely reflects political priorities and places so much emphasis on science and technology, this book shows that the arts and humanities must sit at the heart of any humane curriculum.
It also encourages us to look beyond the artificial barriers which compartmentalise learning in schools and to see the genuine connections which are a natural part of real learning.
Art across the Curriculum is written for teachers who may feel de-skilled by the many changes in education. It provides a wealth of practical information and guidance - and it is illustrated throughout by examples of children's work.
But, perhaps more importantly, the book suggests that it is the sensitive and reflective teacher who, above all, is the essential partner in children's learning; it is the teacher who excites and encourages children to want to learn who understands that art can be the vital key to discovery.